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Jordan / Freedom of expression: UN rights expert condemns killing of journalist Nahed Hattar

GENEVA (27 September 2016) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on  freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, today condemned the killing of Nahed Hattar, a prominent Jordanian journalist and writer who was well-known for his opposition to both the Government and to the so called Islamic State.

Mr. Hattar was shot dead on 25 September 2016 as he was about to enter the court in Amman where he was on trial for sharing on social media a caricature deemed blasphemous by the authorities. Mr. Hattar was arrested a number of times in the 1990s, and survived an assassination attempt in 1998.

“The killing of Mr. Hattar is appalling, and it is unacceptable that no protection measures had been put in place to ensure his safety, particularly when the threats against him were well known to the authorities,” the expert said. “I am also concerned to hear reports that the authorities have banned the sharing of information about Mr. Hattar’s murder.”

Nahed Hattar turned himself in to the police on 13 August 2016, a day after the authorities issued an arrest warrant against him. He was later charged with the crime of ‘insulting religion’ and ‘causing sectarian strife and racism’. 

In a recent communication to the Jordanian authorities, a group of UN human rights experts raised concern about Mr. Hattar’s arrest and the criminalization of the legitimate exercise of his right to freedom of expression. As they explained, the legal basis for the charges for which he was to appear before court amount to the criminalization of blasphemy, which is incompatible with Jordan’s obligations under international human rights law.

“I urge the authorities not only to bring the assailant to justice, but also to bring its legislation into line with international human rights law and to encourage a culture of diverse expression,” the expert stressed.

“The repetition of such horrendous acts can only be deterred by encouraging an open space for diverse expression, where expression is countered by expression instead of bullets,” the Special Rapporteur concluded.

Mr. Kaye’s call has also been endorsed by the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of association and assembly, Mr. Maina Kiai; and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mr. Michel Forst.

Mr. David Kaye (USA) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in August 2014 by the United Nations Human Rights Council.  As Special Rapporteur, Mr. Kaye is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Jordan: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/JOIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests please contact Ms. Azin Tadjdini (+41 22 917 9400 / atadjdini@ohchr.org) or write to freedex@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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